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Wednesday, April 25, 2012
I finally tracked these down in the internet wayback machine, because the site they were from is dead now. But they're from the old home of one of my favorite RPG theory/advice sites:
- Flag Framing - how to reduce prep time, create quality drama, and hit the themes your players want
- The Conflict Web - how to set up networks of relationships to create interesting interplay between characters
I need to do some more work on flags, but I used the conflict web in my Dresden Files game and it worked really, really well. With a conflict web I had a much better grasp on who the characters were and good conflicts just sort of sprang up without much effort on my part.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
This post is exactly what it says on the tin. Indie/story games are the new hotness, but most gamers still play the old standards - D&D, White Wolf, etc. If you like what indie games do but still love traditional tabletop RPGs, what can you do?
As it turns out, lots.
Monday, February 27, 2012
So, I've mentioned this a few times, but I figured I should explain it a little better.
Ed: before I continue - this is old stuff. Nearly a decade old. A lot has happened in game design since then. Think of it as Newtonian mechanics - still useful for many cases, but it breaks down at relativistic speeds.
Game designers like to categorize their games and the people who will play them, so they know what to focus on to hit the widest possible audience (or in some cases, just to hit a specific audience).
The makers of the Magic card game categorize players into three archetypes: Timmy Johnny, and Spike. Timmy likes the experience of playing the game. Johnny wants to figure out how to use the rules to do interesting things. Spike wants to win.
Computer game designers use card suits to define player archetypes. Diamonds want achievements. Spades want to explore. Hearts want to socialize. Clubs want to kick ass.
In the early 2000s, denizens of The Forge (a community of tabletop RPG designers) came up with the GNS model to similarly characterize tabletop role-playing games (and characterize common player payouts). In this paradigm, Gamist games are about winning, Narrativist games tell compelling stories, and Simulationist games immerse you in a fictional world.
You can read more about each "creative agenda" here - note that these are manifestos, mostly written from the perspective of each archetype, and not necessarily objective analyses:
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
DMwC deals mostly with D&D and traditional RPGs. I want to focus on how the principles in the article apply to story gaming instead.
DMwC's main point - that GMs are leaders - definitely applies here. The GM in most story games is in charge of setting the tone, refereeing the rules, and in many cases, pushing the fiction forward and challenging the players (just like in traditional tabletop games). But I differ on a few of the specifics:
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Adding to my previous post, it seems Monte Cook isn't the only one at Wizards who is saying the right things.
So Monte Cook is talking about the design for the upcoming D&D 5th Edition. And so far, he's managed to do an analysis of the first four (really five) editions of the game using something like GNS theory. His take, as far as I can tell, is that the early editions were more narrativist, 3E was simulationist, and 4E was gamist.
That's not a bad breakdown. He also adds two additional axes: level of complexity and level of player payout. In other words, in addition to story, immersion, and challenge, do players and GMs want something that's easy to run? How often do they need to feel awesome?
Monday, January 16, 2012
For those not in the know, Apocalypse World by Vincent Baker is the new hotness is role-playing games. Having just bought and read most of the game manual, I can honestly say that this is one of the best resources available for understanding how to run and play in good games.
Some of the really good points the AW book makes:
Sunday, December 11, 2011
So I picked up a copy of Burning Wheel Gold - the latest and probably last edition of Luke Crane's award-winning tabletop role-playing game - about a month ago. Between it being about 600 pages long and working on NaNoWriMo (not to mention traveling for Thanksgiving), it's taken me nearly this long to get through it.
It's pretty clear from the first few pages that Burning Wheel is a response to Dungeons & Dragons and other traditional fantasy role-playing games. It was released just before D. Vincent Baker's Dogs in the Vineyard and the popular FATE system; in many ways, it stands at the vanguard of the modern "story game" and "indie game" movements with its greater focus on theme and narrative. Burning Wheel was one of the first games to institute the policies of "say yes or roll dice", "don't roll unless it's meaningful", and "make failure interesting" - principles which have since become accepted wisdom in the gaming community.
What separates Burning Wheel from most modern indie games is its complexity - its "crunchiness" - and its focus on simulation and realism. What differentiates it from older D&D and White Wolf products is its equally strong focus on story, theme, and character. In some ways, it's the best of both worlds - you get your D&D3E-style "I'm experiencing what it's like to live and struggle in this fantastic setting" experience, while at the same time being able - and encouraged - to tell compelling stories.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I just finished a short-run (3-ish month) campaign of the Dresden Files RPG with a few friends at Fun 'n' Games in Blacksburg. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about running story games. Here's what I figured out:
- Let the players narrate as much as possible.
- Talk with the players about what they want to see in the story and what they want to have happen to their characters. Think of the GM as the producer and the players as screenplay writers, rather than the GM as director and players as actors.
- Give players control of minor characters when it makes sense. Then you don't feel like you have to have every player's character in every scene to keep them engaged. It's easier to write a player-controlled minor character out of a scene when the player's main character shows up (or let them run both) than it is to juggle a whole bunch of characters in a scene as GM.
- If a player fails a roll, and it makes any kind of sense, offer to let the character succeed with some kind of interesting consequence. Like, you successfully grab the guy's gun, but you can't get it out of his hand, and now he's grabbed you too. This can be represented with an aspect, as if the bad guy succeeded in a maneuver.
- Let the players narrate as much as possible.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
People play games to have fun, just like people watch sports to have fun. And just like watching sports, you can do it on different levels. If you're a casual fan, you'll cheer when your team makes a great play. If you're a sophisticated fan, you'll look for formations and tactics and great individual performances. Tabletop gaming is the same way. You can sit down, eat Doritos, roll dice, and goof off with your friends. Or you can read articles, listen to podcasts, go on forums, and really try to understand how to create the kind of game experience you want.
It doesn't matter what you do if you're having fun. But if you're not having fun, or you're in a rut, or people at the table aren't getting along, sometimes a little knowledge is a good thing. There's the basic stuff: acknowledge that everyone is there to have fun and that people like different things. Figure out how to accommodate everyone's needs.
And then look at your own relationship to the game. Ask yourself: What am I trying to accomplish here? How do I choose actions for my character? How much responsibility do I have for what goes on in the game's narrative? A lot of players never ask those things, and they're really important. How you play can drastically affect what you can do and how much fun you have.
So, let's break it down.